Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control

Senate Democrats representing red states are worried the House impeachment process may spin out of control and destroy any chance their party might have of winning back the majority next year.

These Democrats hope the House keeps its impeachment focus on the Ukraine controversy, and that Democrats act relatively quickly. If they do not, the red-state Democrats warn President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE could turn the tables on them.

“It’s really incumbent on the House to really be laser-focused. The president is a master of pivoting and deflecting and I think it’s really important to stay focused,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBennet reintroduces bill to ban lawmakers from becoming lobbyists Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control MORE (D-Mont.), who narrowly won reelection in a Republican-leaning state in 2018.

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Tester said the impeachment inquiry should be focused on Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he pressed for an investigation of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenSupport for impeachment inches up in poll Overnight Defense: Trump's Syria envoy wasn't consulted on withdrawal | McConnell offers resolution urging Trump to rethink Syria | Diplomat says Ukraine aid was tied to political investigations Democrats say they have game changer on impeachment MORE.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule Senate Dems lose forced vote against EPA power plant rule Schumer seeks focus on health care amid impeachment fever MORE (D), who represents Trump-friendly West Virginia, also warned of Democrats focusing on old issues.

“I think it’s much better if it’s going to be focused because there’s a whole load of hay out there that they’ve been talking about for so long,” he said.

Like Tester, he said the effort should be focused on Trump’s attempts to push Zelensky to investigate Biden.

“I just think anytime a foreign entity is involved, it needs to be investigated,” Manchin said.

Manchin isn’t sure his warnings will be heeded, particularly since many liberal Democrats favor a broader investigation that would pull in efforts related to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox News legal analyst says Trump call with Ukraine leader could be 'more serious' than what Mueller 'dragged up' Lewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network MORE’s investigation, along with complaints that Trump has used his office to benefit his businesses.

At the same time, Democratic leaders in both chambers appear to want to keep the focus on Ukraine, particularly with polls showing a growing number of voters back impeachment.

One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the dynamics within the Democratic caucus said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurkey says soldier killed despite cease-fire in Syria Schumer calls for FDA to probe reports of contaminated baby food How Trump and Pelosi went from bad to worse MORE (D-N.Y.) has told his colleagues that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Democrats say they have game changer on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg would support delaying Libra | More attorneys general join Facebook probe | Defense chief recuses from 'war cloud' contract | Senate GOP blocks two election security bills | FTC brings case against 'stalking' app developer MORE (D-Calif.) wants to keep the scope of the impeachment inquiry as narrow as possible.

The senator, who favors a broader scope, said that “people are worried” about potential political fallout within the Democratic caucus.

“The stakes go up for both sides at this point,” the source added.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the House inquiry will focus on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, at least initially. She said there is a "consensus in our caucus” that Ukraine “is the focus of the moment because this is the charge,” referring to the whistleblower complaint against Trump. Even so, the six other House committees will continue to examine various allegations of presidential misconduct.

Democrats feel they have momentum on their side, and their confidence has been bolstered by expressions of concern over Trump’s conduct from former members of his administration and fellow Republican officeholders.

The president’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, expressed his misgivings Sunday when he told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky left him “deeply disturbed.”

A new CNN poll shows that 47 percent of Americans surveyed now back impeaching the president, up from 41 percent in May as more Republicans and independents now say they support the prospect.

A CBS News poll published Sunday showed that 55 percent of respondents now support the impeachment inquiry into Trump and that independents are evenly split, 49 percent in favor and 51 percent opposed.

Republicans warn Democrats risk a political backlash similar to what they felt in 1998 during the GOP-led impeachment of President Clinton. Democrats picked up congressional seats in that year’s midterm election.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection next year in a pro-Trump state, said he doesn’t want impeachment to drag on and expressed concern it could drown out negotiations on a new trade deal known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) and a multiyear highway authorization bill.

“Obviously we need to get to the bottom of all this quickly,” he said. “I want it to come to a head as quickly as possible. I think the American people deserve it to be resolved one way or another.”

Jones said the pending USMCA, which is now in jeopardy because of the brewing impeachment fight, is “a good thing for the state of Alabama.”

“I think there’s a lot of things that may get lost in the shuffle of this,” he said. “You obviously worry that you’ll get consumed but at the same time the Senate has not had a good track record this year legislating.”

Yet Jones, running as a Democrat in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 points in 2016, says that the gravity of the allegations against Trump are bigger than politics.

“Don’t ask me whether or not this is going to affect my election in 2020. Don’t ask me if it’s going to affect Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Ask me what is going to happen to the Constitution.” 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Khashoggi fiancée meets with lawmakers seeking 'justice and accountability' for his slaying Schiff should consider using RICO framework to organize impeachment MORE (D-Calif.), who sat as a juror in the Senate’s trial of Clinton in 1999, also said the process “shouldn’t drag on for too long.”

“It’s September. It ought to take a couple months and that ought to be it,” she said.